Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Palm Sunday Peace Parade....a life-changing experience

Little did I know when I went to the Palm Sunday Peace Parade in Pasadena last year I would meet Jill Shook and my life would never be the same. Three weeks after we met, I proposed  and five months later she and I were married. During our wedding ceremony, we affirmed, and we are still convinced, that "the Prince of Peace brought us together for a purpose greater than either of us can imagine."

Jill and I also joked about our encounter with Bert Newton, founder and organizer of the Palm Sunday Peace Parade. We invited him to take part in our wedding since it would never have occurred without him. We also told him he could use us to advertise this annual Palm Sunday event:

 "Maybe you should let singles know that this parade can be a golden opportunity for meeting someone special...."

This year's Palm Sunday Peace Parade takes place on April  1 with the theme: "Parade of Fools." Explains Bert:

"In these days of endless war, we march as fools who believe that another world is possible."

We will gather at 3:30 PM at Messiah Lutheran Church, 570 E Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena CA. After which we will march to the Paseo to sing and pray for peace and justice.  See

Jill and I are also planning to have a get-together at our home prior to this event to celebrate the first anniversary of our meeting.

Bert Newton reports good news about the Palm Sunday Peace Parade:

"We have expanded from three cities around the U.S. to four!! In addition to Pasadena, this year there will be Palm Sunday Peace Parades in Harrisonburg, VA, Elkhart, IN, and Toledo, OH!! Let's keep this movement growing!!" 

Last year I posted a sermon I wrote about Palm Sunday as a peace demonstration, based on the writings of Marcus Borg. See 

This year Bert wrote a Palm Sunday reflection called "Jesus Rode a Donkey" in his blog (see below). Bert is a Mennonite theologian as well as an activist. He has written a book about John's Gospel that will be published by the same publishing house that is publishing Jill's book on affordable housing. Jill and Bert worked together on a chapter dealing with the theology of affordable housing. And I have come to know and appreciate Bert as a good friend and neighbor.

The  "marginalized neighborhood" he mentions in his reflection is Northwest Pasadena, a low-income, racially and ethnically diverse area that was once one of the most gang-ridden neighborhoods in Southern California. This is where Jill and I live, and where Bert lives with other committed Christians, and where my Quaker meeting is located.

Northwest Pasadena isn't as bad as some people think. It's a vibrant and colorful neighborhood where Blacks, Hispanics and people of all kinds are living together as good neighbors.

It is here that Bert and Jill came to witness (like Jesus) to the transforming power of God's shalom--peace with justice for all. And through various projects they have undertaken, they have made a real difference in this neighborhood and in this city....

Is seeking such shalom foolishness? Is it foolish to fall in love?

In our hearts we know the answer to these questions. What is bringing us together on Palm Sunday to witness to peace is the one who wasn't afraid to sacrifice everything for love's sake.

Jesus Rode a Donkey: A Theater of the Oppressed

Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-40, John 12:12-19

What do country bumpkins do when they come to the big city? The city folk are so much more sophisticated: Their clothes are trendier, their speech more urbane, their transportation flashier. The country folk stick out like a sore thumb and draw contemptuous looks from the city folk. Such was likely the experience of the Galilean peasants coming into Jerusalem for Passover. They must have felt a strong impulse to try to just blend in, to assimilate. That is until one of their local heroes arrived; then suddenly they were willing to make their presence known and to proclaim their own regional candidate for king. They did not care how pathetic and absurd their candidate appeared to the city folk; in fact, they reveled in the absurdity, in the simple down home candor of their champion.

Jesus of Nazareth came in peasant clothes, riding a donkey. When Roman dignitaries came to Jerusalem, they would arrive with an impressive procession of war horses and chariots. In absurd contrast, Jesus rode this lone, pathetic beast of burden. He needed no army. He needed no chariots and war horses. He needed only the singular weapon of the common poor: the word of God, the prophetic word that cuts like a double-edged sword.

His absurdist theater sent forth a word of revelation: It revealed the absurd cruelty of the Roman occupation; it laid bare the foolish complicity of the Jerusalem elite with their Roman overlords; it revealed the defeat of the kingdoms of this world and the coming victory of the in-breaking Reign of God. The disciples recalled the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9-10:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
Triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey.
He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off.
And he shall command peace to the nations!

Following the example of Jesus on Palm Sunday at 3:00 in the afternoon, The Peace & Justice Academy will co-sponsor the annual Palm Sunday Peace Parade. We will march from a historically marginalized neighborhood in Pasadena to the economic center of the city. There we will sing and pray for peace. We will witness against the powers and authorities of this world that make war against God’s poor ones, and witness for the in-breaking Reign of God, a reign of justice and peace.

For further information, contact Bert Newton,, or 626-793-1103.

1 comment:

  1. Oops, we need to change the time on our website; this year we had to move the the starting time back to 3:30.

    Thanks for posting this!